Poster - Boucher - Are postgraduates ready for research?
ARE POSTGRADUATES READY FOR
Students’ Ability to Find Information
Postgraduate students will already have considerable
experience in finding information. However, to do a
literature review they will need to be able to search
bibliographic databases effectively. Do they have the
skills to use Boolean operators?
Asked to rate their skills in finding high quality
information on narrow topics, all but one gave a
self-rating between 4 and 10 on a scale of 0 (very
poor) to 10 (excellent). Tested in their ability to use
Boolean Operators there was a often a mismatch
between perceived and actual ability.
Clare Boucher, Katrina Dalziel, Michele Davies, Susan Glen – Library & Information Services.
Jed Chandler – Postgraduate Training Officer, Postgraduate Faculty.
SWANSEA UNIVERSITY, Singleton Park, Swansea SA2 8PP
1. The online Research Readiness Self-
Assessment (RRSA) tool (created by staff at
Central Michigan University) was chosen because:
1. it measures both the self-perceived and actual
level of skill;
2. It can provide individualised feedback &
recommendations for training.
2. In Oct. 2008, new entry research postgraduates
(PhD level) were invited to take the RRSA. 67
(50%) out of a possible 134 took part.
3. Results were analysed to compare students’ self-
perceptions with their actual skill levels.
4. After 4 months, students were asked what training
they had attended and how useful RRSA had been
in making an assessment of their IL training needs.
5. Records of attendance at IL training sessions for
the RRSA group and the non-RRSA group were
From these results, it is shown that
• students’ self-perception of their Information
Literacy skills is not always a reliable basis upon
which to determine training needs in this area;
• the RRSA tool is predominantly found to be useful
for students in assessing their level of skills and
training needs for Information Literacy; and,
• using RRSA can help to raise awareness of, and
attendance at, Information Literacy training sessions
for research postgraduates.
The results also support the Research Information
Network (RIN) recommendations for more systematic
approaches to identifying the information related
skills and competencies of researchers.
Swansea University intend to use RRSA again and to
further refine and develop it in the light of results.
Students’ Ability to Evaluate Information
Students were asked to evaluate information from both
websites and articles. Once again, there was a tendency
to either overestimate or underestimate their skills
Survey Monkey was used to conduct a brief
evaluation of students experience of RRSA. The
response rate was 38%. The majority found RRSA
had been useful and went on to attend a greater
number of IL training sessions.
Attendance at Library Training Sessions
Without any objective criteria, how well can students
assess their Information Literacy skills and their need
of further skills development?
Would student assessments be more realistic if they
used an objective tool designed to measure these
skills and provide feedback to help identify training
Librarians at Swansea University, together with the
Postgraduate Research Training Officer, sought to test
the reliability of students’ self-perception of their own
information literacy skills in relation to their actual skill
Overall the average scores for the group were good.
Research students should be able to
“…identify and access appropriate
bibliographical resources, archives, and
other sources of relevant information”
“… the ability to identify [their] own
(Research Councils UK , 2001)
Students who rated their skills at the lower end
Quartile) actually performed best in this test.
None rated themselves in the bottom quartile.
“… ignorance more frequently
begets confidence than
(Darwin, 1871, cited in Dunning & Kruger, 1999)
A B C D E F
Librarians and other training professionals
“… adopt more systematic and innovative
approaches to identifying and assessing
the needs of researchers to enhance their
information-related skills and
Did the RRSA tool help you to
make a realistic assessment of
your [IL] skills development
Acknowledgements: RRSA was developed by staff at Central Michigan University. We are particularly grateful to Lana Ivanitskaya at CMU for her assistance & advice. For further information, please visit:
http://www.infolit.org/star_8.html or take one of our handouts.
Further analysis, revealed specific areas of
weakness and evidence of students over-estimating
(and under-estimating) their skills.
Kruger, J., Dunning, D. (1999) ‘Unskilled and unaware of it: how
difficulties in recognizing one’s own incompetence lead to inflated
self-assessments’, Journal of Personality & Social Psychology,
77(6), pp. 1121-1134.
Research Councils UK (2001) Joint Statement of the UK
Research Councils' Training Requirements for Research
Students. Available at: http://www.grad.ac.uk (Accessed: 28 Feb.
Research Information Network (2008) Mind the skills gap:
information-handling training for researchers. London: Research
Information Network. http://www.rin.ac.uk/training-research-info
(Accessed: 10 November 2008).
Range of Marks
A Browsing the Internet B Evaluating Information
C Obtaining Information D Perceived Research Skills
E Research and Library Experience
F Understanding of Plagiarism
Range of Marks
Students who took RRSA and replied to the
survey also indicated their intentions to attend